Organizations find it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain employees and secure their full potential through engagement. Too often recruitment is seen by employers as cloning existing staff with little regard to the changing needs of their organization and even less on the differing aspirations and motivations of younger job seekers.
Ultimately, job seekers need to be seen as attractive candidates for possible employment but it is equally important that employers need to be seen as attractive to unemployed.
A new conceptual framework is based on contrasting the corporate culture of the employing organization and skills deficit with the evolving value systems of current and potential employees.
Failure of existing practice
We continue to witness the further development of the autonomous and reflective individual. It is an individual that has a full set of needs, internal and external to the organization. Power is diffused and shared. “In contrast with traditional management, where structures and systems are derived from a pre-defined strategy, the new workplace is seeking to balance what matters for the company (its strategy) and what matters for the individuals (their life strategies).”1 This is revealed dramatically in the changing dynamics of the war for talent.
We have written many times before2 that in addition to these generic changes (especially in the Western Hemisphere), the world has recognised increasing shifts due to the internationalization of business. Yet we still observe that the major instruments and methods used by HR professionals owe their origin to an Anglo-Saxon philosophy and are still dominated by an Anglo-Saxon signature. Typical are the instruments used for recruitment and selection. Although its original conceptual father C.G. Jung was a Swiss, the MBTI and JTI (Myers-Briggs and Jung Type Indicators) are the most used Americanised instruments in business to assess personality type. And lately we see the enormously popular Balanced Scorecard developed by Kaplan and Norton that initially helped many North American firms to measure important perspectives of business beyond the financial. But what have these (often Americanised) perspectives done for (and ‘to’) non-American organizations? Obviously there was an era when globalisation was taken literary. “It works in the US, so let’s export it to the rest of the world”, was the main principle.
The response many organizations are now using in the ‘needle in the haystack’ approach. By using the internet, to tease thousands of job seekers to submit their CV, and using AI algorithms to search for keywords and indicative phrases, hope to find the few needles they might hope to entice to the next round of selection.
Confusion over skills, competences and competencies
A number of confusions within the area of performance assessment with regard to the use of terminology, and differing interpretations, regarding competence assessment are existing. A significant difference between the US and more European approaches to performance assessment is identified. A particular aspect of this is its relevance to assessment based on behaviors and attitudes rather than simply on the results of functional analysis concerning a particular job. This has implications for the future direction of performance assessment, particularly with regard to identifying performance.3
The leader defines what an organization views as excellent and develops an appropriate environment in which the culture of the workforce is reconciled with the needs of the organization
A definition of competence is the capability to carry out a defined function effectively. Whilst a definition of competency is the description of the knowledge, skills, experience and attributes necessary to carry out a defined function effectively.
It becomes clear from above table that competence describes what people can do while competency focuses on how they do it. In other words, the former means a skill and the standard of performance reached, while the latter refers to the behaviour by which it is achieved.
A gradual shift in attention from competence to competency towards inter-cultural competence.
Because of the new challenges that digitalization, agile working and globalization have posed to us, we see an obvious shift from attention from the what to the how. We remember vividly a client that asked us to see whether we could develop an App that measured the values of the participants and the values of the organization and see whether they would match. This value based recruitment approach was inspired by the fact that this organization experienced much more trouble in the how than in ‘the what’ in making the organization more innovative. And skills are much easier to assess than the behaviors we need to build a culture we need.
Too often it is assumed that competences and competencies are the same and just differences in USA/International English and English.
However, we need to avoid seeing these as extremes and integrate them together and conceptualize what we can call intercultural competence.
Thus we know for example that US, UK or Australian managers tend to be more individualistic and Japanese more teamwork oriented, so as long American managers remain in the US managing all Americans and the Japanese stay in Japan, then presumably there is no problem. However, in today’s multi-cultural world, an American manager could be running a team overseas with Korean, Japanese and French members. So does the manager focus on leading the individual or the team?
We have found that this inter-cultural competence in reconciling dilemmas is the most discriminating feature that differentiates successful from less successful leaders and thereby the performance of their organizations. These dilemmas which derive from value (i.e. cultural) differences also mean, increasingly, that the culture leads the organization. The leader defines what an organization views as excellent and develops an appropriate environment in which the (ideographic) culture of the workforce is reconciled with the (nomothetic) needs of the organization.
Proposed new conceptual framework
So what might make a large organization attractive to a young, ambitious and talented employee now? It is apparent that established organizations must make an enormous effort to catch up with the attraction of younger businesses. There is a tension between the image of these companies and the ideals that young talented people have in their heads. The power-oriented, “Family” culture and the role-oriented hierarchical structures of the so-called “Eiffel Tower” culture still dominate in both perception and reality.
The dilemma arises from the tension between corporate image and personal vision. Global companies like Heineken or Shell are still looking for people who are global, innovative, team players; people who think in terms of diversity, who want to learn and who value freedom of choice (to continuously maintain their employability profile). This global corporate mindset thinking, appears to be bland (“it’s all the same everywhere”) and static and not offer the freedom to develop one’s own persona. As a consequence, is not attractive to the young generation-X people. Young, talented, recently graduated candidates prefer to work locally and have fun.
- Hamid Bouchiki and John Kimberly, “All change in the Customised Workplace”, in: Mastering People Management, Financial Times, 2001, Oct. 22, pp 4-5.
- ‘Business Across Cultures’ (Fons Trompenaars and Peter Woolliams), also in Managing People Across Cultures (Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars), both published by Capstone Wiley
- David R. Moore (Manchester Centre For Civil and Construction Engineering, UMIST, Manchester, UK.), Competence, competency and competencies: performance assessment in organizations